We’ll Steal Your Heart Away

The Watkins Family Hour always puts on a good show at Christmas time and this year was no exception. The concert was held on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at Largo at the Coronet. In the pre-show rundown we were told that this would be the last Watkins Family Hour at Largo until possibly April.


The Largo Stage is Set for the Watkins Family Hour

Sara and Sean Watkins stepped onto the stage first, wishing us all a “Merry Christmas” and Sean started off the show singing, “There’s a last time for everything.” The band was then invited onstage and consisted of Sebastian Steinberg on bass, Don Heffington on drums, Greg Leisz on pedal steel, Benmont Tench on piano, and David Garza on guitar. They kicked off into a cover of Bob Dylan’s “From a Buick 6” with Sara singing lead vocals.

The band then played three of their typical songs. From Nickel Creek, the performed “Somebody More Like You,” which was refreshing to hear as a full band arrangement, especially with the addition of the pedal steel.  Sara introduced the next song by saying, “This is our hit single,” and the group launched into “Steal Your Heart Away.” I borrowed the line from this song for the title of this blog post. Sean remarked, “It’s a sentimental time of year,” which opened up some banter between Sara and Sean about sentimental songs, though Sara then introduced “You and Me” by remarking, “This is about different stages in life.”

DSC04165The band left the stage as special guest Kate Micucci was announced. She has a different Christmas song as part of her duo Garfunkel and Oates that she didn’t play (maybe not appropriate for the family hour). Instead, she performed an amusing song on guitar about going home for Christmas where everyone else is treated as an adult, but she is still treated as a child.  “Christmas time at my house, congratulations you’re still a kid; everyone got older, I’ll just pretend I never did.” Her brother Matt Micucci joined her onstage part way through the song to accompany her on kazoo.  The pair then played a piano duet that  was titled, “Schlittenfahrt” (sleigh ride in German), which purportedly has been played annually at their family Christmas celebrations.

The band then returned to the stage and Sean introduced the next song by saying, “Christmas can be a wild time of year.” Not sure the title of this new one, but it has the lyrics, “We stayed up talking to 11, all alone, just you and I; I go crazy about you and there’s no telling what I’ll do; ’cause darling you bring out my wild side.” Next Sara mentioned that it was a tradition in her family to listen to a Michael Martin Murphey Christmas album, though the next song was not by him, but was a “two steppin’ song,” “Any Old Time.”  Piano player Benmont Tench then sang one of his new songs which began, “Bring me your sorrows, bring me your troubles, bring me your devils that howl at the door.” Another lyric was “Let it fall away, let it fall where it may, you can walk away from it all; there’s nothing to hurt you and nothing to help you under the starlight that cradles us all.” Then drummer Don Heffington got the chance to go to the front of the stage while Sean sat in on the drums for Don’s twist on “The Bells of St. Mary’s.”

There was a break in the music as comedian/magician Derek Hughes (America’s Got Talent, Season 10) took the stage. He mentioned that he had already bought a ticket to the WFH show when he was asked to perform. He joked that performers had to buy tickets and audience members would be used as performers, then pointed at me and asked if I was ready to do a set later.  I gave him a thumbs up. After a bit of funny patter, he did a trick where he guessed the colors three people had chosen out of a box of crayons. Then he brought those three people (Heidi, Samantha, and Chad) on stage, put a toy letter block in a bag, had them shake it up and then correctly guessed which letter was on top for each person.

Sean and Sara returned to the stage and Sara sang a “beautiful old song,” the hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter” (James Taylor’s version at the link). It started out fairly serious and beautiful, but soon enough the Micucci siblings returned to the stage as elves and shook a lot of fake snow all over Sara and Sean as they were playing.  The pair had plastic snow in their hair for the rest of the night.   Sean then played another new song that I believe will be on his next album due in March. Some of the verses were: “You were born unto a king and a queen … just to turn and find your fortress was a hole in the ground.” “The power of suggestion is a mighty force indeed … Thank God you crawled out of that hole where you were living.”

Then the final special guest of the evening was announced, none other than legendary singer-songwriter, Jackson Browne. The whole band returned to the stage to support his song, “I’ll Do Anything” (linked a version of Jackson singing with Sara and Sean in the backing band). I love how Jackson introduced his song by saying, “I don’t know why I picked this song. It came to mind because the Christmas season is hard on some people.” Thankful to him for thinking of those who may not be having the merriest of Christmases this year.  Then they played a touching cover of a song written by Kieran Kane, “When We’re Gone, Long Gone” (check that link for a beautiful version featuring country powerhouses Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton that is on their Trio 2 album). “When we’re gone, long gone, the only thing that will have mattered, is the love that we shared and the way that we cared.”

The Watkins Family Hour band then performed what is getting to be a regular closer for them “Brokedown Palace” (link of them performing on Conan includes a verse sung by David Garza). They surprised me that night with one more song, “Forever Young,” before concluding the set.

DSC04167For the encore, David Garza came to the front of the stage and played an absolutely gorgeous rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” on his guitar (he’s on piano at the link).  The next time through he sang it and was joined on stage by all the guests from the evening. Then Sara called for one more time through the song and encouraged all of the audience to singalong. That was a special moment and I felt a sense of blissful unity and connection. As the song finished, Sara announced that there would be more music after the show in The Little Room and for the audience to come along.






Reality Calls and I Just Let It Ring

On Friday, October 2, I attended the latest monthly installment of the Watkins Family Hour at Largo at the Coronet.   Special guest for the evening was Paul F. Tompkins, who has his own regular show at Largo titled “Spontaneation.” Sean and Sara Watkins were soon on stage and the three warmed up the crowd with a discussion of bug boxes, as Sara recalled a time she had a bug box when they played at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri when she was about 10 years old. This eventually morphed into the idea that the audience should identify the spirit insect of each member of the Family Hour band, which became a running gag for the evening.

The first song the siblings played was an instrumental possibly called “Appalachian Break” or “Appalachian Breakdown.” Sara sang a pretty song I am not familiar with including lyrics, “Made up my mind to go so far away, I’d head west…”.

Then their regular drummer, Don Heffington, and bass player, Sebastian Steinberg, joined the Watkinses on stage, along with David Garza, who has been occasionally sitting in on the piano during the recent Watkins Family Hour tour in place of usual piano man, Benmont Tench. With the full band, Sean sang his tune, “Since the Day I Was Born” from his album All I Do is Lie.  Sara answered with one of her original songs, “You and Me“, which is on her album Sun Midnight Sun.

Sean talked a little bit about going to his parents’ house regularly lately for songwriting sessions and sang one he penned recently, which began, “Come closer, right beside me, my love…” and is currently titled “I Am What You Want.” Then they launched into their cover of Stuart Hamblen‘s song “Remember Me,” which they had also played when they were the guests at Jon Brion‘s show the previous week. There followed another song I am not familiar with sung by Sara, lyrics included, “You needed me…I was gone for too long…I couldn’t be found…and you’re tired now…we can still win this.” After that they played their cover of Bob Dylan‘s “Highway 61 Revisited.”

David Garza then moved to front and center and sang a quirky, spooky, nearly tongue-twisting song, “The Scariest Halloween Song Ever” (follow the link for this one if you want a treat), with Paul returning to add a few extra “Halloweens” to the song. Next, Sara sang “Too Much,” a song written by David, which can be found on her self-titled album.  This stretch of music finished with a cover of the Everly Brothers song, “Poor Jenny,” which they had also played at Jon Brion’s show.

The musicians then left the stage as Paul returned to regale us with amusing stories inspired by his wife’s hometown of Sullivan’s Island, SC. When he finished, Sara and Paul sang a duet of The Mountain Goat‘s song, “No Children,” which I think actually works better as a couples’ duet.

David returned to the microphone to sing his version of Jimi Hendrix’s song “May This Be Love.” Sean then took up the lead, singing one of his songs from Nickel Creek, “Somebody More Like You.” They closed out the set with a recent WFH favorite, a cover of the Grateful Dead‘s “Brokedown Palace.”

For the encore, Largo-regular Jackson shouted out a request for “Reality Calls” (Sean’s song from his band Fiction Family) and had his wish granted, but not before Sara dropped his name from the stage as she quipped, “Oh yes, we know ALL of your names.” I’ve titled this post after the refrain for the song.

Following the main stage show, there was a set played in The Little Room by David Garza and Sean Watkins. David started playing on his own, singing a couple of his original songs. He is quite the wordsmith and fills his lyrics with a smattering of clever phrases and the story often twists and turns in ways the listener does not quite expect. I am not familiar enough with David’s music (and he has a vast back catalog, as you can see from his listings on iTunes and Bandcamp) to be able to know all of his song titles, but I’ll write what I know. The first song had lyrics of “Little Hurricane/Baby, Don’t Cry.” The second song started with “All the gardens died in the early freeze…”.

Sean joined David on The Little Room stage and they sang Bob Dylan’s “You’re Going to Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” Then Sean led a traditional bluegrass number, though had trouble remembering all of the words to “The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake.”

David then sang another one of his songs, “Smoochie Samba,” a song from David’s group Twang Twang Shock a Boom. David then took a quick minute to teach some chord changes to Sean before launching into the reggae-styled “Last Skank,” also from TTSB.

Sean asked for requests and was assigned “21st of May,” one of his songs off the latest Nickel Creek album A Dotted Line. David then rocked out with a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s song “Pride and Joy,” which concluded Sean’s stint on stage.

David looked like he would have kept going all night, though he played three more songs. He sat down at the piano, playing mainly with his right hand, perhaps an improvised number. He referred to it as a “tone poem” when he finished. It included the lines “there’s a song trapped down in my heart…well you lost me at hello, but we found each other at goodbye…”. He began playing with his left hand as he stopped singing and finished with a flurry of notes. He switched back to his guitar, playing his song “Flower,” from his album This Euphoria.  He finished his set with a request, “Nashville Co-Write” which is an amusing number; why oh why, can’t I find it on the Internet!